Rugby rewards local refs

South African referees will take charge of a third of next year's matches in the Six Nations tournament, the IRB announced on Thursday.

South African referees will take charge of a third of next year's matches in the Six Nations tournament, the IRB announced on Thursday.

Five of the 15 matches in the Championship will be controlled by South African officials, while Irish referees take charge of four matches.

"We are very chuffed - it's nice to see good performances rewarded," said Andre Watson, SA Rugby's manager of referees. "But we won't be taking our foot off the pedal as we continue to strive to produce excellent officials."

Mark Lawrence takes charge of the tournament opener between England and Italy at Twickenham on February 7 and also controls France and Wales in Paris on February 27.

Craig Joubert referees Ireland versus England in Dublin a day later while Jonathan Kaplan has two matches. When he takes charge of the second match he will become the first referee to blow 50 Test matches: "It's an awesome achievement," said Watson.

Kaplan is in Cardiff on February 14 to handle Wales versus England and reaches his half century a month later in Edinburgh when he referees Scotland versus Ireland.

World Cup final referee Alain Rolland and Nigel Owens of Wales also referee two matches while George Clancy (Ireland), Chris White (England), Alan Lewis (Ireland), Stuart Dickinson (Australia), Joel Jutge (France) and Steve Walsh (New Zealand) complete the list of match referees. - Sapa

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